“Understand evolution and abiogenesis” is the title of proof number 25 (half-way point, sort of) from “God is imaginary”. Now, I’m not a biologist, and neither is Marshall Brain, so this will be examined from a philosophical point of view.
There is, of course, a misrepresentation of what many believers actually think about what evolution is, or where it goes. What has evolutionary research shown: that living creatures do change because of genetic drift and the like, but organisms essentially stay the same: bacteria remain bacteria, lizards remain lizards, dogs remain dogs, cats remain cats, etc., etc. In fact, as one looks across the data, there seems to be a concentrated move away from saying that there could be any leap from one phyla to another simply based on what I see in the research. So there has been a careful, somewhat secretive move within the biological sciences to shift what scientists mean when they use the word “evolution”, yet their presuppositions will not let them totally dismiss Darwin’s theory as unsupported by the data.
The Clergy Letter, which Marshall quotes from contains this statement,
Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
Of course, he selectively quotes from this second paragraph, (bold his quotation),
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
Now, while I agree that the theory of evolution is a “foundational scientific truth”, at least when it is carefully and properly defined as to what one means when they use it, I do not know where or how he can draw this conclusion,
The interesting thing to understand is that when you accept evolution, what you are automatically doing is rejecting the concept of a soul. Here is why: As soon as you accept that evolution is true, you also accept that the creation story in the Bible is false. It is pure mythology. The concept of the “soul”, which comes from the same book, is exactly the same sort of mythology.
First, I can and do,a accept that there is some type of evolution, that there is change that goes on to the creatures that exist in this world, there are countless new species discovered on a monthly basis, this is a result of DNA becoming isolated and its varieties of expression doing so. However, the concept of the soul, is not something that can be as easily rejected, especially given certain scientific studies into near death experiences and quantum states. So the conclusion simply does not follow.
Second, the Bible is demonstrably true, both it its historical content, and in its philosophical consistency, especially in regards to the New Testament, as well as claims in the Old Testament that have been verified archaeologically.
Third, there are varying concepts of what a soul is, something I will deal with later. But what is the biblical concept? As best I can ascertain, the best definition that we can draw from across Scripture is that the soul is the central part of a person’s being, the seat of their consciousness, their will, and their intelligence. It is something that people are held responsible for because it is the part of a person that bears the imago Dei.
Then Marshall makes a critical flaw in his reasoning by making this statement,
This makes complete sense. The biochemistry of life powers evolution. That biochemistry is amazing and complex, but it is nothing more than a set of soul-less chemical reactions.
Who is making that observation? How can something that is merely a “set of soul-less chemical reactions” make such a statement? There is a level of non-reflective thinking going on that has awakened such philosophers of science as Thomas Nagel to write such books as Mind and Cosmos. Chemistry simply does, and only when it is acted upon by external forces. Minds, or souls, consider consequences and make such judgments as “amazing” or “beautiful”.
Then there’s one other statement,
Where did the first cell come from? Many believers will argue that God magically created the first living cell.
That is simply a straw man. We believe that God has made everything in its time and its place according to His power and His wisdom, not just cells, but the entire universe as well as its contents.
In fact, if we look at the science, honestly, there is no clear origin for anything, life simply appears, such as the Cambrian explosion, which poses problems for Darwinian process.
Under the heading Understanding the Rationalization, Marshall writes,
The fact that we exist as a conscious, intelligent, rational species is an accident of nature that involved no supernatural intervention. There is no part of the scientific explanation of evolution that says, “a mythical supernatural being reaches in right here and guides it.” Evolution, by its very nature, is a supernatural-free process.
How is this conclusion arrived at? The remarkably inconsistent nature of his presupposition. A believer can conclude that evolution, or change over time, was designed into the system by God to fulfill the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
If evolution is true, then the Bible describes a creation process that is a complete myth.
How does the Bible describe creation? Creatures arising suddenly. What does the scientific evidence show? That creatures arise suddenly. There is no contradiction in this, therefore the conclusion is a non sequitur. Evolution, the change of a species over time, can be true and the Bible can be true, these are two completely different categories, something that Marshall is simply too blind to see.